What is an Oral Drug Test ?

An oral drug test or mouth swab drug test is a drug screen taken using a sample of saliva.

The collection format varies from brand to brand. Some oral drug tests are a single step drug test, with the absorbant membrane incorporated directly onto the test membrane. Others use a seperate collection tool, mainly variations of a sponge on a stick. The saliva is then transfered either directly to the test membrane, or in 3 stage tests to a collection reservoir or storage vesel, allowing retention of an element of the original sample for later laboratory analysis (confirmation testing)

The drug screen depends as with urine near patient tests on the group of drug selected by the tester. Saliva drug tests are available in single drug formats, just screening for single drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.

More common are multiple drug combination allowing simultaneous screening for a range of common drugs. Common membranes include opiates, methamphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, benzodiazepines and  methadone. PCP is also available but the range is not as extensive as for near patient urine drug screening.

 Unlike urine formats there is no commonly agreed international cut off level for detection in oral fluid. As a result the detection levels vary considerable from brand to brand, with manufacturers competing for ever more sensitive membranes and the longest detection periods from usage. Check the specifics of the saliva drug test used as comparing the results from different products may otherwise cause confusion, and will invariable vary from an alternative urine based test.

The interpretaion of oral drug test results can also be less clear than with urine drug testing, as the detection levels are set much lower with the resultant take up of reagent forming thinner and fainter negative result lines. Full reaction times are also needed and must be allowed before reading results.

Despite these factors saliva drug testing has become more widespread, particularly in business and employment screening where the handling of urine is seen as problematic and the advantage of non invasive, easy direct sample observation is seen as a major compliance advantage to testers.

The shorter detection periods are also better for employers more interested in the issue of “under the influence in the workplace” versus “recreational weekend exposure”  which may not necessarily affect performance.

Oral Drug test fact file

  1. suitable for employment and healthcare screening
  2. cost around 20% more than urine equivalent
  3. expect to pay £5-7 for 5 or 6 panel combination test
  4. most detect for 12-72 hours after usage of drug
  5. check detection times and proceedure, select a major label branded product

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